Madagascar | Useful information

Should you intend to travel to Madagascar yourself (I sure hope my blog posts kept tempting you more and more every time they were published!), here are some useful pieces of information concerning transportation and accommodation.

Transportation
Our trip from Antananarivo to Tuléar was with a private car and a driver which we rented by the day (all negotiated and discussed via direct e-mail contact beforehand). We were on the road with Ravelomanantsoa Andrinaivo Lala, Naivo for short, and couldn’t have wished for a more reliable and experienced driver and guide – we had lots of interesting conversations (as far as our French allowed – but he does speak some English, too). We had agreed on a price in Ariary before the trip which at the time was about 45 Euros per day PLUS all the gas needed en route. As we did not go back to Antananarivo with him, he charged two days plus gas for the trip back. And you can’t do it much faster than that. If you would like to get in touch you can do so via e-mail at rnaivo@yahoo.fr or via phone at +261 (0)32 4990504.
In Antananarivo we mainly relied on regular taxis (which are everywhere and as far as we know safe). We were told that within Tana no trip should cost more than 10,000 Ariary which I would say is a lot already – but please keep in mind that inflation is a big issue in Madagascar and that we traveled in April/May 2015. Depending on when you read this, things might have changed considerably.
JaonaFor our trip to Ambohimanga we booked a driver via the hotel, Jaona. He charged 50 Euros for a full day, gas included. He was also very nice to travel with and very reliable. You can reach him at tanataxijaona@gmail.com or via phone at +261 (0)34 5186797. We had contacted him again for the trip to the Lemur’s Park but he was not available, went to great lengths, though, to arrange for a transport for us.
One day in Antananarivo, we also moved with Naivo’s son Kiady. which is a 100% recommendation as well. You can reach him at kiady@live.fr or via phone at +261 (0)32 5628900.
In Tuléar, taxis are hard to come by as most hired transportation is done by pousse-pousses (bike rikshas). Certainly, every hotel can arrange for transportation but as we were staying with a friend, we needed contacts. Michael seemed to have fair prices. You can reach him at each of the following phone numbers: +261 (0)32 0203689, +261 (0)34 0203689, +261 (0)33 2309108.

Air Madagascar offers domestic flights between the larger cities and tourist destinations. Flights can be booked online without problem – and the changes that concerned our flight were communicated both via e-mail and text message to the number we had indicated. Do book as soon as possible, though, as prices rise the closer you get to the travel date. And do factor in a buffer as sometimes flights are postponed.

Hotels
Accommodation in Madagascar comes at very reasonable prices, though in a few cases we did treat ourselves to more fancy ones (which, by comparison, were still reasonably priced). We liked every place we stayed at, so have a look:

Sakamanga Hotel, Antananarivo
Contact: +261 (0)20 2235809, http://www.sakamanga.com, contact@sakamanga.com

Saka
The small and somewhat battered metal gate gives no indication whatsoever of what’s behind: the Sakamanga (Blue Cat) Hotel is a true oasis in the big city! It consists of several different buildings and you have to find your way around at first… we walked through little passageways the first morning to reach the garden where breakfast was served. It has a bar, its own fantastic restaurant (very good food at absolutely competitive prices… the mousse au chocolat was a revelation… and at about 2.50 Euros one of the more pricey desserts), a pool, a little museum and attention is paid to innumerable little details. Of course there’s wifi, too. As it was a recommendation, we wanted to stay there no matter what during our first stay in Tana… and ended up with the luxury suite as that was the only one available… at a staggering… 78 Euros. But their rates start at 30 Euros (which is per room, not per person – and this could have accommodated 5 people). Breakfast can be buffet-style (about 6 Euros) or continental (about 3.30 Euros). I have no intention to stay anywhere else should I at some point return to Antananarivo. I guess you could say I fell in love.

Le Trianon, Antsirabe
Contact: +261-(0)34-0505140, http://www.hotel-letrianon-antsirabe.com, hotel.letrianon@gmail.com

Antsi
This is an old colonial building and has quite a different charm to it. There are only a few rooms, I’m not sure it is but it feels family-run. Our room was spacious with old wooden floors, had a king-size bed AND twin beds, a large desk… nothing to be desired. The bathroom was built-in. Wifi was available, though in the hall only. I didn’t mind that as there were comfy chairs and I didn’t want to talk anyway. No A/C, in case that’s important for you, and no mosquito nets, either, but they weren’t needed anyway. There’s an adjoining restaurant which was okay. Breakfast was simple but good… including Antsirabe cheese. The rate for the room at the time was 79,500 Ariary, which was about 25 Euros.

Cristo Hotel, Morafeno (near Ranomafana National Park)
Contact: +261-(0)34-1235397, http://cristohotel.cabanova.fr, cristomadagascar@gmail.com

Cristo
This hotel is not among the closest to Ranomafana National Park it’s in the next village on the road to Mananjary. I have definitely never stayed at a hotel before where the welcome was as friendly and truly heart-warming. This is a family-run place – right down to the sizable collection of orchids and other plants that is in the hands of the manager’s mother. For dinner there is a choice of two dishes and despite the fact that there are more restaurants in Ranomafana, we stayed there both nights, as it was good food (about 1.80 Euros for the entrée… zebu steak with fries and veggies). Our room featured a queen size bed and a single one, both with mosquito nets and made from bamboo. No A/C but a jaw-droppingly beautiful view… which is also in sight when you have breakfast on the verandah. There’s no wifi but our host said with a smile that they have started considering it as so many people ask. As I read a lot, I always take note of the bedside lighting which was not too good here. The rate was 90,000 Ariary… about 27 Euros.

Tsara Guest House, Fianarantsoa
Contact: +261-(0)20 75 502 06, http://www.tsaraguest.com, tsaraguest@tsaraguest.com

TSARA
A very nice place to stay – probably one of the best in Fianarantsoa. It is not in the old town but in walking distance. Really quiet with friendly staff and a good and cozy restaurant. Postcards of photographer Pierrot Men for sale at the reception desk. Wifi worked intermittently. I got a little exasperated with their website when trying to find out about rates etc. – or rather about the e-mail contact I tried to establish. We somehow ended up on a booking website and the prices were outrageous there. So what we did was not book at all and just show up. It was almost 20 Euros cheaper than what we were offered online. I forgot the exact amount but it was around 50 Euros for the twin bed room. Which also reminds me of a general remark I’ve wanted to make: during low season, there is no need to make reservations anywhere. There were vacancies in every single hotel we stayed at and Naivo, our driver, said as much, too.

Hotel Aux Bougainvillées, Ambalavao
Contact: +261-(0)75 34001, http://www.auxbougainvillees.sitew.com, auxbougainvilleesambalavao@gmail.com

Bougain
We had no reservation for this hotel, either, and once we found the manager (reception was closed, the office moved to the restaurant), it was no problem getting a room. It was a rather Spartan affair but all the essentials were there, including mosquito nets for the beds. The shower was constructed in a way that makes you flood the whole bathroom BIG TIME but once you realize why it happens, you can limit the “damage”. There’s wifi at the restaurant, which closes at about 9 pm but the wifi’s kept on and you can continue using it on the porch there. The check-out was quite an experience again, done at the bar… and I don’t remember getting a receipt, either! Breakfast was flexible: usually served from 7:00 onwards we were accommodated for 6:30.

Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira (near Isalo National Park)
Contact: http://www.lejardinduroy.com

Isalo
The video on the hotel’s website shows horses running on the hotel grounds… and we were like “yeah, right.” But it turned out to be right: there were I think six horses roaming freely on the lawns between the bungalows, paying visits to the terraces and the pool, too! It turned out to be a perfect place to stay. It comes at a price but we were going to treat ourselves to something more fancy anyway. Wonderful architecture that picks up elements from the landscape, the fauna and also cultural elements. The hotel has its own vast kitchen gardens )which we walked through one morning) so most of the food is their own. The bungalows are spacious, the food is just amazing, the staff extremely helpful… and good deals are to be had, too: stay three nights and the fourth is free for example. There’s wifi, of course, though not in the rooms. Drivers stay free of charge. We had planned only two nights and spontaneously decided to stay for a third. I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Eco Lodge Lalandaka, Anakao
Contact: +261-(0)20 94 922 2, http://www.lalandaka.com, reservation@lalandaka.com

anakao
This was the hotel I had booked before anything else was decided and the rest of the trip was planned to accommodate the stay there. It is really, really simple, no great luxury, no running water – and rationed water on top of that. If you want to take a warm shower (bucket and ladle, that is), you need to warm some of the water that was allotted to you in a solar heater near the hut. There’s 24h electricity and also wifi, though the later only from 5pm onwards at the bar. There’s no bedside lights which made reading in bed impossible. Bar and restaurant are in a larger, open hut with sand floor, so meals taken barefoot are the norm. Our bungalow was right on the beach, where two sun loungers and an umbrella were waiting for us and it featured a hammock, too, so basically had all I needed for four days of relaxation. Food was good, too, staff very friendly – a recommend. The night was to be had at 85,000 Ariary, so about 25 Euros for the double room. Speedboat transfer is arranged by the hotel, too (from Tuléar), at 90,000 Ariary for the return ticket per person.
There are quite a few souvenir sellers on the beach but on our first day there I had found an agreement with them: leave me in peace until the afternoon of our last day and I would shop till I dropped then. They honored the agreement and so did I.

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